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Dolphins intend to be tougher team in 2014

The Dolphins want a new attitude in 2014.

This team wants to be tough. This team wants to be physical. This team wants to get as far from finesse as it is possible to make that transition from one year to the next.

And this team is serious about the transition.

The offseason brought multiple changes that signaled this change. The addition of Louis Delmas at safety replacing Chris Clemons? Well, Delmas is a downhill tackler who's reputation is that he hits so hard, sometimes he injures himself ... or his own teammates.

The change of Koa Misi to middle linebacker? Misi is not known for making the dynamic play. He's not a fumble-causing machine. He doesn't collect interceptions like stamps. But he is tough. He doesn't back down. He sticks his nose in a fight. And now he's in the middle of all the action.

The Cortland Finnegan addition replacing Nolan Carroll? Whatever you think of Finnegan's ability to cover downfield -- the past couple of years his skills have seemed to be diminishing -- his toughness has always been one of his greatest assests.

He's a fighter.

No, really ...


Carroll was one of my favorite guys for his thoughtfulness and work ethic and desire to milk every last ounce of ability and leave it on the field. But he wasn't overly physical. He didn't carry the proverbial chip on his shoulder.

So that's three changes on defense where the Dolphins believe they may be improved this year -- but also be tougher.

On offense the move to toughness is everywhere.

Joe Philbin brought in John Benton from Houston to be the line coach. And Benton brought in a running game scheme that features cut blocking, which defenders don't love.

"I just like what we’re doing on the scheme," said left guard Daryn Colledge. "I like what our running backs are doing in practice. I mean we play against the defense right now that knows exactly what we’re doing every single day and they’re seeing it over and over again, and we’re still able to find a way to run the ball a little bit.

"So we get out against some teams and spread them out and get a chance to start cutting some guys on the back side and really start opening some of those holes up and we’ve got some chances.  Plus, you’ve got 17 (Ryan Tannehill) back there, that guy can move a little bit, he’s going to give us an opportunity on the back side. He’s going to hold some of those linebackers for us."

Oh yeah, remember last year offensive coordinator Mike Sherman didn't want Ryan Tannehill running too much? This while Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick and others were churning yards on the ground both when plays broke down and by design?

Well, this year new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor seems to be more willing and indeed eager to have Tannehill stretch his legs.

Run, Ryan, run!

That's a change in attitude in that it does not fear injury to the quarterback. It turns him into a threat, a playmaker with his feet.

Last year, by the way, the Dolphins were a sad, sad bunch on third and short.

This year, coaches are demanding that players understand that third-and-short of fourth-and-short must belong to the offensive line ... and the running backs.

This team will not be passing on third-and-one at a 75 percent clip like last year's team did. Indeed, coaches have made it very clear to players that they better get their minds right and start thinking about pushing the defense back on third-and-one run plays.


That's what the 2014 Dolphins want to be.

Will they be that?

No idea.

Look, a lot of teams want to be a lot of things and then games happen and suddenly things change. I have no idea if this offensive line or running back corps is physical enough to dominate the line of scrimmage on third and one.

I don't know that we'll be focused on how physical Finnegan and Delmas are in the secondary if they're letting receivers get behind them and bombs are blowing the top off the defense.

But I do know the intent for being a tougher team is there. The signs for it are everywhere.